The deadline for expressions of interest to host DRS2024 is just less than two weeks away! We sat down with Sara Lenzi and Juan Sádaba, two of the lead organisers of DRS2022Bilbao, to ask them about the process of organising the conference and tips they have for potential applicants. If you are interested in applying to host DRS2024, you can find more details about the call and how to submit here.
Could you introduce yourselves and give us a few details about your roles and responsibilities in organising DRS2022Bilbao?
SL: I am Sara (Lenzi), and I was the co-chair, together with Peter Lloyd, of DRS2022Bilbao. I also took part in the Workshops and Keynote Committees. In general, I represented the City of Bilbao, the DRS2022 host organisation, together with the University of the Basque Country, and within the Programme Committee I acted as the main contact point between the DRS and Bilbao.
JS: My name is Juan Sádaba. I am a vice-dean at the School of Architecture of the Basque Country. I was in charge of getting the ball rolling from the beginning by linking up the institutions and partners by involving Bilbaoekintza and the network of Universities and design teaching institutions of the Basque Country, led by the school of architecture. I was responsible for the management of the main venue (Bizkaia Aretoa). I also co-chaired the DRS2022Bilbao Labs, a new format that linked the academic world of DRS to the city challenges, and I acted as a member of the Program Committee.
What did you find most rewarding about organising DRS2022Bilbao?
SL: Without any doubt, the conference days were the most rewarding. The feedback from participants and all the happy faces we saw around were the most fulfilling moments of a very, very intense full year of preparation. And, working together with the DRS members of the Programme Committee and getting to know the DRS better has been a really awesome human journey.
JS: It is not easy for me to point out something specific as 'the most rewarding'. The general feeling is that everything worked out smoothly and that the venue came out as kind of a perfect fit. Even more important than that is the intangible part of it; the feeling that there were no tensions during the organising process nor during the event, and the subjective feedback data tells us that people were really happy about the experience. Personally, I´m very proud of being of having built a team with different institutions and making it move forward smoothly.
What was most challenging about organising the conference?
SL: You have to take into account all sorts of needs and expectations from a very diverse community, try to be as inclusive as possible, and accept that most likely you won't be able to make everybody happy while keeping the budget under control and ensuring that all technical stuff is delivered on time and robustly (read: the hybrid platform). This really makes the organisation of the conference extremely challenging. Also, it is a long process that speeds up close to the conference. You need to keep the right tension but save energy for the last mile!
JS: The most challenging of it all was dealing with a conference of such a size with limited human resources and keeping things on time while meeting expectations, before and during. On top of that, despite the congress being a high-level academic gathering, there are other sensitivities, more down to earth, coming from the city and other agents involved. Blending together all these tacit and explicit demands is kind of challenging.
What tips do you have for prospective DRS2024 applicants?
SL: DRS2022Bilbao was really a shared effort from the entire city. All stakeholders felt engaged (public and private universities, museums, design professionals, grassroots associations to name a few) and really went the extra mile to welcome the DRS community. DRS2022 was a shared endeavour for Bilbao, and this is having a long-lasting effect in the city. It has increased awareness about what design research is and the impact it can have on design practice across all stakeholders. I hope applicants to DRS2024 share the same vision of a conference that is hosted not by a single institution but by a wider network of actors. This makes the organisation easier and design research more impactful!
JS: I think that the Advisory Board of DRS made a clever decision by proposing a renewed fresh vision for the conference by opening up the strictly academic side of DRS to a format that embraces and engages city actors, local stakeholders, and a wider version of the Design Research community. I think this is the future of Design and Design Research and therefore the future of the home to Design Research which is no other than the DRS and DRS conferences.